This Is the ONLY Way You Should Be Cleaning Your Underwear

One of the worst underwear mistakes is cleaning them incorrectly. We've got expert tips on how you should really clean your drawers.

Your clothes have that lovely detergent scent fresh out of the laundry, so you feel confident putting those clean clothes on. But hold on—those fabrics might not be as clean as you thought, and your cleaning methods are to blame.

The average pair of clean underwear still contains about 0.1 grams of feces and could hold up to 10 grams, according to a Journal of Infection study led by Charles Gerba, PhD, a microbiology professor at the University of Arizona.

If you aren’t already doing your laundry in hot water, it might be time to start. Anything below a hot cycle of 140 degrees Fahrenheit won’t do much against bacteria, says Dr. Gerba. Cold water is “designed to get clothing clean but not eliminate microorganisms,” he says. Using an activated oxygen bleach detergent like OxiClean or Clorox 2 can sanitize your clothes, even if you don’t want to throw your delicates in hot water, says Dr. Gerba. (What is laundry stripping?)

Without hot water and bleach, bacteria from your underwear can spread to other clothes in the wash too. Unloading that “clean” laundry into the dryer gets bacteria on your hands, which means you could spread it to other fabrics or even up your risk of infection by spreading the bacteria to everything you touch. Keep your underwear separate from the rest of your laundry to avoid spreading the germs, suggests Dr. Gerba. (Here’s why you should never sit on your bed with outside clothes.)

Even those best practices might not get rid of bacteria completely, though, because those germs don’t just disappear after your clothes have been in the laundry. Some of that bacteria—including E. coli—stick around in the machine after the cycle is over, says Dr. Gerba. Washing your underwear last will keep that away from your other loads, but you should clean the machine itself by running an empty cycle after every underwear load. “Give the washing machine a mouthwash by running bleach through it and killing bacteria left,” he says. Learn more tips for cleaning your washing machine the right way.

Sources
  • Journal of Infection: "Application of Quantitative Risk Assessment for Formulating Hygiene Policy in the Domestic Setting"
Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.